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Conventional Missile System to Provide Diverse, Rapid Capabilities

By Sgt. Sara Wood, USA
American Forces Press Service

WASHINGTON, March 9, 2006 – The conventional "Trident" missile program the Pentagon will ask Congress to fund is part of a larger strategy to better address diverse threats facing the United States and will further the country's defense goals, a Defense Department spokesman said here today.

The Conventional Trident Modification program, which will cost about $503 million, was developed based on a 2001 comprehensive review of America's deterrence policy, the spokesman said, speaking on background. The study, he said, recognized that a deterrence strategy that relies primarily on nuclear weapons does not address the diverse threats the United States faces, and therefore the country must have a balance of nuclear forces, conventional strike capabilities and non-kinetic capabilities, which include information operations and non-lethal weapons.

The goal of this new strategy is to produce a force capable of assuring allies, dissuading competitors, deterring adversaries, and if necessary defeating enemies, the spokesman said. The conventional missile program will help achieve this goal by providing the capability to defeat threats on short notice without crossing the nuclear threshold, he said.

"(Conventional Trident Modification)'s advantages over other conventional strike capabilities is its ability to provide prompt response to threats around the globe," he said. "The (program) will allow national leadership to act in a crisis without a lengthy military buildup."

Additional benefits of the Conventional Trident Modification are that it requires no forward-deployed or visible presence, has few if any requirements for allied overflight permission, and gives the enemy little or no warning before a strike, the spokesman said.

To ensure other countries don't mistake a conventional missile launch for a nuclear missile attack, DoD is developing confidence-building measures, such as advance notification and shared early warnings, he said. Also, DoD can borrow notification procedures from its long history of test launches of dual-role weapons systems.

The Conventional Trident Modification program gives the United States a long-range strike option against targets beyond the range of current systems or that are heavily defended, the spokesman said. Also, the deployment of the program will send a message to adversaries that the United States is prepared to defend its national interests, he said.

"If needed in the war on terrorism, the (Conventional Trident Modification program) can help deter state actors from sponsoring terrorism by imposing the threat of prompt conventional attack," he said.

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